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Stalked by a Sea Lion?

Gary Sim, June 21, 2013

A few years ago I went for a day hike to Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. I had a map of the park, and decided to hike on some paths on the east side of the park that I hadn't been on before, and it looked like a couple of them led down to the water's edge of the harbour, or perhaps more correctly English Bay. The trail was great - a narrow route through forest, salal and rock - and then teasing views of the ocean. Once the trail got near the water, a number of lesser-used trails led off at intervals towards the inlet. I had a look at a couple of them but they seemed like dead ends. Then I found one where I could easily scramble down to the water's edge on an open rock bluff that had a fairly gentle slope to the water.

The view east to Lions Gate bridge and Vancouver harbour beyond was excellent. The tide was ebbing, and a strong current was coming out of the inlet and swirling around Point Atkinson. I took off my pack and started to enjoy the view, the sunshine, the nature all around me, and the solitude. The shoreline sloped into the water in such a way that I was able to stand right at the water's edge, and crouch down to take a closer look at the outflowing tidal water that was flowing rapidly by me. I suddenly had the feeling that something was watching me. It was a weird feeling, especially since I had the impression that there was something in the ocean watching me.

I stood up, and still having the same feeling that I was being watched, started to step back from the water's edge. As I got about ten feet back from the water a dark form seemed to appear in it, although with the current and the surface reflection it wasn't clear what the form was. I continued to move back from the water, and the dark form took shape. It got bigger and bigger, and although I thought at first it was a seal, I was wrong, and in a few seconds a sea lion's head popped out of the water ... looking right at me, eye to eye.

It was effortlessly holding its position in the current relative to where I was standing, and it was looking right at me. It must have been lurking at least thirty feet underwater when I came down to the water's edge, checking me out, perhaps wondering if I was edible ...

Sea lions eat fish, so they are carnivores. A friend once told me that when he was camping on Sombrio Beach he woke up in the night hearing his dog barking furiously down at the water's edge. He went to look, and found that a sea lion was in the water just offshore of the beach, and his dog had already gone a few feet into the surf, being lured into deeper water ...

Sea lions are learning to eat salmon off fishing lines up in the Haida Gwaii (although I've heard it said that they are only doing this because there's nothing left in the ocean to eat otherwise) and I heard a story last year about a guide who fell overboard one day. Supposedly three sea lions popped their heads out of the water to see where the splash was. The guide was pulled back into the boat immediately, in any case.

Regardless, I do wonder what that sea lion was thinking about at Lighthouse Park.

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